Hey everyone who had to read The Great Gatsby in high school, guess what: You get to experience it again! Per The Hollywood Reporter, that much-read, much-beloved, and much-adapted F. Scott Fitzgerald novel will be moving to television as a miniseries from Vikings creator Michael Hirst. And Hirst has some new plans for the old (sport) story.
Hirst, who will write the miniseries and serve as executive producer alongside Michael London (Milk), will set the series in the Black community of New York City in the 1920s, zeroing in on the music scene of that time. Hirst elaborated on his goal in this new setting for the story, up until now only seen with predominantly white casts in its five (!) screen adaptations:
“I seem to have lived with Gatsby most of my life, reading it first as a schoolboy, later teaching it at Oxford in the 1970s then re-reading it periodically ever since. As the critic Lionel Trilling once wrote: ‘The Great Gatsby is still as fresh as when it first appeared, it has even gained in weight and relevance.’ Today, as America seeks to reinvent itself once again, is the perfect moment to look with new eyes at this timeless story, to explore its famous and iconic characters through the modern lens of gender, race and sexual orientation. Fitzgerald’s profoundly romantic vision does not prevent him examining and exposing the darker underbelly of the American experience, which is why the story speaks to both tragedy and hope, and why it continues to resonate today.”
Even though the rights to The Great Gatsby have recently entered the public domain, the estate of Fitzgerald is involved, with Blake Hazard, Fitzgerald‘s great-granddaughter, serving as a consulting producer on the miniseries. Hazard said of Hirst‘s intentions, “I have long dreamt of a more diverse, inclusive version of Gatsby that better reflects the America we live in, one that might allow us all to see ourselves in Scott‘s wildly romantic text. Michael brings a deep reverence for Scott‘s work to the project, but also a fearlessness about bringing such an iconic story to life in an accessible and fresh way. I’m delighted to be a part of the project.”
Hot Take: The Great Gatsby remains a masterpiece. It’s really friggin’ good, and I will pretty much always be happy to see its story play out, even if none of the previous screen adaptations have gotten what I love about the novel quite right. I’m also intrigued and hopeful about this new version’s new setting and focus on the Black experience. While Hirst is white, which gives me pause about his right to tell this story authentically, it’s hopeful to hear that folks like Columbia University’s William B. Ransford, professor of English, and Farah Jasmine Griffin, comparative literature and African-American studies, will work on the miniseries as cultural advisors. It’s also interesting to note this miniseries announcement in the wake of Watchmen, another miniseries based on an acclaimed author showrun by a white person used to interrogate ideas of Black and American identities. Here’s hoping Hirst takes the right lessons from that show, including an inclusive approach to hiring staff and talent.
Hirst‘s The Great Gatsby is being produced with A&E Studios and ITV Studios America. No network or casting decisions have been announced.